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Canyon River Golf Club

It may not be a big field, but it's a good one. 

That's the assessment director Carla Berg made of the group of women who will tee off Tuesday at Canyon River Golf Club in search of the Montana Women's State Amateur title. 

Berg said she doesn't remember a time when the tournament included so many golfers with scratch handicaps. Thirteen golfers bring scratch or near-scratch handicaps when the opening round begins Tuesday morning. That group is led by defending Amateur champion Kyla Clancy.

"It's a very good field," Berg said as she was making final preparations for the 98th Women's/Senior State Amateur. 

Last year at Billings' Yellowstone Country Club, Clancy led the 54-hole tournament wire-to-wire, finishing with an 8-over-par 223 for a one-shot victory over Gallatin Gateway's Dorsey Addicks.

Clancy's momentum from the victory carried over into her junior season at Rocky Mountain College. Clancy placed 30th in the 2015 NAIA National Golf Tournament. 

Despite her recent success, there are plenty of golfers who should give Clancy a run in her attempt to repeat. 

Addicks, a golfer at Seattle University with two top-10 finishes at the WAC Women's Championships to her credit, will lead the charge. She nearly pulled off a final-round comeback with an even-par 72, but fell one shot short. 

Addicks has finished second two years in a row. 

The field will also have a distinctly Missoula feel with sisters Maggie and Sadie Crippen. Sadie, who will join Montana in the fall, will be looking to add to her 2015 Class B championship. Crippen won the event by 13 strokes just a year after finishing second to Townsend's Bailee Dexter, who will also be at Canyon River this week.

Sadie's older sister, Maggie, a golfer at North Dakota State, should figure prominently into those angling for the title. Before heading east, Crippen was a three-time Class B state champion. 

In her six events for the Bison as a sophomore last season, Crippen averaged just a shade over 81, more than two strokes lower than her freshman average. Considering her familiarity with Canyon River's nearly 6,100-yard layout and her recent success at the state amatuer -- she finished fourth last year -- those numbers could be further trimmed this week.

She said the key to that will be how she plays around the greens.

"I have to have a better short game this year," said Crippen. "Canyon is a lot longer course so that makes your short game even more important." 

A host of collegiate and former collegiate golfers should add to the intrigue. Montana's Hailey Hoagland, who won the Don Barnett Memorial in May, will join Montana State golfer Lauren Hausauer. Former Bobcat Halee Folkvord aims to improve on her fourth-place finish last season.

Helena's Cathie Williamson, a mainstay in Montana state golf tournaments who finished five shots off the pace last year, hopes to close that gap on a track that has held up well thanks to some recent precipitation during an unusually hot and dry summer, according to course general manager Ed Bezanson.  

"It helped a lot," Bezanson said. "Everything looks fantastic out there, honestly. ... It had some dry spots here an there, but not bad because we have a great crew that keeps it nice and green."

Played in conjunction with the Women's Am is the Women's Senior Am with a field of 95. Susan Court out of Helena returns to defend her title. She won the event by nine strokes last season.

The senior event will play about 5,400 yards and will tee off around noon.

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